September 12, 2016 Newsletter

The Virginia "Right to Work" Amendment is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Virginia as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. The amendment was proposed by Delegate Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, who has been working on passing the amendment since he took office in 2010.

Virginia currently has a right-to-work statute that bans employers from requiring union membership. Supporters are seeking to add right-to-work regulations to the Virginia Constitution to prevent future lawmakers from undoing the state's current laws.  Presently, Virginia’s right to work law, § 40.1-59 of the Code of Virginia, provides that any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership in the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise is against public policy and illegal. This has been the law and the declared public policy of the Commonwealth since 1947.

The measure would add a Section 11-A to Article I of the Virginia Constitution. The following text would be added by the proposed measure's approval: Section 11-A. Right to work. Any agreement or combination between any employer and any labor union or labor organization whereby nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, or whereby such membership is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or whereby any such union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any enterprise, is against public policy and constitutes an illegal combination or conspiracy and is void.

The language in the amendment bars employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment or continuation of employment. Unions still have the same rights. They can still organize, still collectively bargain. They just can't force you to join. The amendment, if passed, would protect Virginia's current right-to-work law from future General Assembly legislation. The legislature can repeal laws, but not constitutional amendments, which are much more difficult to both pass and repeal.

The question will appear on the ballot as follows: should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

A vote "for" the measure supports adding a section to the constitution that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership for employees as a condition for employment.

 

The Department of Planning and Budget determined there would be a one-time cost of $131,158 for providing public notice, which would be deducted from the general fund. Under state law, the State Board of Elections is required to prepare posters and pamphlets and run advertisements in newspapers to provide public notice about constitutional amendments on the ballot. The department found the amendment would not fiscally impact the Department of Labor and Industry.

Delegate Bell’s amendment has the backing of both the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Virginia’s right-to-work status is a plus in the state's efforts to recruit business and new industry.  The right to work — just like the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — is fundamental, and it deserves constitutional protection.

If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434) 821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov. You can also keep up with me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.

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